PASCAL'S SYNDROME: POSITIVISM AS A SYMPTOM OF DEPRESSION AND MANIA

Authors


  • This paper was presented to the History and Philosophy of Science section at the fifty-fourth Annual Meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS), Canberra, 12 May 1984. The author wishes to add: “My thanks to the National Humanities Center and to the Australian Research Grants Committee for support. Dr. Larry Evans advised on diagnostic particulars. For comments on the manuscript I wish to thank John Cawte, University of New South Wales School of Medicine; Bernard Davis, Harvard Medical School; Robert Eden, Dalhousie University; Derek Freeman, Australian National University; Paul D. MacLean, National Institute of Mental Health; Maurice Mandelbaum, Dartmouth College; Robert S. Wallerstein, Langley hrter Psychiatric Institute; and E. O. Wilson, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University.”

Abstract

Abstract. The present study applies results and methods of psychobiology to intellectual history. Pascal's syndrome is a depressive neurosis associated with morbid effects of scientific certainty. The syndrome is characterized by self-mortification and conversion experience that represses distressing certainties. The dynamics of the syndrome are assessed from Blake Pascal's psychosis. The ideation of the syndrome is evaluated by reference to the neurology of altered states of consciousness and the biogenic amine hypothesis of depression and mania. The evaluation yields a description of the relation between psychogenic and biogenic factors in the syndrome's etiology.

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